Mazar-i-Sharif, also spelled Mazār-e Sharīf, often called just Mazar, is the fourth-largest city of Afghanistan, with a 2015 UN–Habitat population estimate between 577,500 and 693,000. It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by highways with Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the southeast, Herat in the west and Samarkand in Uzbekistan in the north. It is about 55 km from the Uzbek border. The city also serves as one of the many tourist attractions because of its famous shrines as well as the Islamic and Hellenistic archeological sites. The ancient city of Balkh is also nearby.
The name Mazar-i-Sharif means "Tomb of the Prince", a reference to the large, blue-tiled sanctuary and mosque in the center of the city known as the Shrine of Ali or the Blue Mosque. Some Hazaras believe that the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, is at this mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif, after Ali's remains were transferred to Mazar-i-Sharif as per request of Ja'far as-Sadiq. This is however rejected by non-Hazara Muslims, as the majority believe he is buried in Najaf, Iraq.